NASHVILLE - Gov. Bill Haslam says in a letter to Tennessee's school superintendents that he's "disappointed" by their open criticism of his education chief Kevin Huffman and wants them to take a "fresh approach to communications" with the commissioner.
"The bottom line is that we are at a critical point in the implementation of key reforms that I believe will lead to continued progress in education, and this work is simply too important to get sidetracked," Haslam says in the letter, dated Monday.
He adds, "that's why I hope you'll join me in taking a fresh approach to communication between the state and school districts and work together as partners as we seek to build on the momentum that's been generated."
Educators say some 60 superintendents have signed a letter criticizing Huffman, saying they feel Huffman "considers school teachers, principals and superintendents impediments to school improvement rather than partners."
The letter, drafted by Tullahoma Schools Superintendent Dan Lawson, also takes Huffman to task, saying they believe his department "has no interest in a dialogue with those of us providing leadership for school systems." The letter or petition has yet to be presented to the administration.
In his response, Haslam tells superintendents and directors he's "grateful" to them for their efforts in improving education outcomes and goes on to praise Huffman, saying he is "very grateful" for Huffman's "vision and leadership. He has brought a new perspective and dynamic energy to education reform in Tennessee."
The governor adds that "while you may not always agree with some of our administration's specific initiatives, there is no doubt that we're improving the future for more Tennessee children."